United States Army in World War II: The Technical Services: The Ordnance Department

Planning Munitions for War

by Constance McLaughlin Green, Harry C. Thomson, and Peter C. Roots


. . . to Those Who Served

Table of Contents



Introduction: The Ordnance Task in World War II

Chapter 1: Origins and Growth to 1919

Early History—World War I

Chapter 2: The Ordnance Department: 1919–40

Organization, 1919–39—The Budget

Industrial Mobilization Plans—Field Service

Chapter 3: Finances and the Effects of Lend-Lease

The Period of Limited Emergency—The Period of Unlimited Emergency—Shipment of Ordnance “Surplus” After Dunkerque and Its Consequences

Chapter 4: Organization of the Ordnance Department: 1940–45

The Early Months of 1940—Organizational Developments, June 1940 to June 1942—Relations with Army Service Forces—The Latter Half of 1942—Decentralization of the Ordnance Department—Developments, 1943–45

Chapter 5: Military Personnel and Training

Ordnance Schools, 1920–40—1940 Plans for Training—The Ordnance School at Aberdeen, 1940–45—Replacement Training—Unit Training—Bomb Disposal Training

Chapter 6: Civilian Personnel and Training

Growth of the Working Force, 1938–45—Recruiting Ordnance Workers—The Struggle for Delegated Authority—The Influence of ASF Personnel Policies—Training Ordnance Workers—Employee Relations

Chapter 7: Research and Development: 1919–40

The Westervelt Board Report—Developments in Ammunition—Development of Combat Vehicles—Influence of Budgetary Restrictions—The Role of Technical Intelligence

Chapter 8: Wartime Organization and Procedures in Research and Development

Factors Immediately Conditioning Research and Development—Evolution of Organized Research and Development—Relations with Civilian Agencies—Relations with Other Military Agencies—Relations with Theatres of Operations—Problems of Standardization and Limited Procurement

Chapter 9: Competition and Collaboration with Foreign Designers

Ordnance Research and Development in the German Army—Limitations Upon American Ordnance Research and Development—Technical Intelligence—Collaboration with Allied .Nations

Chapter 10: The Search for Greater Mobility in Ground Warfare

Factors Determining Vehicular Development—Engines—Flotation for Tracked Vehicles—Flotation for Wheeled Vehicles—Self-Propelled Artillery—Airborne Equipment—Paracrates—Trucks

Chapter 11: The Search for Increased Fire Power in Ground Warfare: Launchers and Fire Control

The Scope of the Problem—Increasing Muzzle Velocities—Rocket Launchers—Recoilless Rifles—Very Heavy Artillery: “Little David”—Fire Control

Chapter 12: The Search for Increased Fire Power: Ammunition

Barrel Rifling and Design of Projectiles for Conventional Weapons—Special Projectiles To Give Hypervelocity—Propellants for Conventional Weapons—Design of Projectiles for New Weapons—Rocket Propellants—The Bazooka Rocket—Fuzes—High Explosives—Special Purpose Projectiles

Chapter 13: The Development of Better Protection

Armor Plate—Body Armor—Land Mines—Mine Exploders—Controlled Underwater Mines

Chapter 14: Antiaircraft Defense: Ground-to-Air Weapons

Volume of Fire for Defense Against Low-Flying Aircraft—Artillery Fire for Defense Against Close-in Attack—Defense Against Fast-Flying Aircraft at High Altitudes—The Search for High Velocity—Fire Control and Tracking Devices—Proximity Fuzes

Chapter 15: Aircraft Armament: Weapons for Air-to-Air Combat

The Problem of Speed—The Problem of Effective Striking Power—The Problem of Functioning at High Altitude

Chapter 16: Aircraft Armament: Guns and Rockets for Air-to-Ground Attack

Air Cannon—Rockets

Chapter 17: Bombs

Developments to 1940—Blast Versus Fragmentation, 1940–41—Chemical Bombs—Fuzes—The New Role of Fragmentation Bombs—Use of New Explosives—Use of Air Bursts—The Search for More Powerful Bombs—The Role of Pyrotechnics—Problems of High-Altitude Bombing—The Development Program, 1945—Testimony of the World War II Record

Chapter 18: Conservation of Materials

Early Neglect of Conservation—Principles of the Conservation Program—Steel and Its Alloys—Copper and Its Alloys—Aluminum—Rubber—Preservative Materials

Chapter 19: Unresolved Problems of Research and Development

Bibliographical Note

List of Abbreviations



1. Total Appropriations for the Ordnance Department Compared with Total Appropriations for the Military Activities of the War Department

2. Employees and Payroll at Springfield Armory

3. Ordnance Department Military and Civilian Strength: 1919–41

4. Proposed Ten-Year Ordnance Program

5. Requests and Appropriations: September 1939–May 1940

6. Appropriations for Ordnance Service and Supplies Army, by Type of Funds and by Project: Fiscal Year 1941

7. Appropriations for Ordnance Service and Supplies Army, by Type of Funds and by Project: Fiscal Year 1942

8. Appropriations for Ordnance Service and Supplies: Fiscal Year 1943

9. Civilian Accident Frequency Rates at ASF Installations

10. Partial Summary of Caliber Board Report

11. Ordnance Department Total Appropriations and Appropriations for Research and Development: Fiscal Years 1921–40

12. Comparison of 5-inch and 4.5-inch Rockets

13. Steel Cartridge Cases in World War II

14. Summary of Conversions to Synthetic Rubber by V-J Day


1. Organization of the Ordnance Department: 31 July 1939

2. Organization of the Industrial Service

3. Organization of the Ordnance Department: 1 February 1942

4. Ordnance in the Organization of the Army: 1942–45

5. Organization of the Ordnance Department: 1 September 1942

6. Organization of the Tank-Automotive Center

7. Organization of the Ordnance Department: 6 July 1944

8. Organization of the Research and Development Service: 1 July 1945.

9. Power for Tanks

10. Percent Distribution of Steel Used, by Army Agency: 3rd Quarter 1942 and 1943

11. Steel Alloys Required per Medium Tank (M4), with and without Conservation Measures

12. Percent Distribution of Copper Used, by Army Agency: 4th Quarter, 1943

13. Percent Distribution of Copper Used by Ordnance Department, by Type of Matériel: 4th Quarter, 1943

14. Copper Requirements for Ordnance Matériel: 1943

15. Percent Distribution of Aluminum Used, by Army Agency: 4th Quarter, 1942

16. Percent Distribution of Aluminum Used by the Ordnance Department, by Type of Matériel: 4th Quarter, 1942

17. Aluminum Requirements for Ordnance Matériel: 1943

18. Monthly Average Use of Synthetic Rubber by the Ordnance Department: 4th Quarter 1942–3rd Quarter 1943


Springfield Armory—Maj. Gen. William B. Crozier—Maj. Gen. Clarence C. Williams—Maj. Gen. William H. Tschappat—Maj. Gen. Samuel Hof—Maj. Gen. Charles M. Wesson—Maj. Gen. Levin H. Campbell, Jr.—Factory Training Class—Street-Fighting Training Exercise—Ceremonial Dance at Dedication of the Indian Village—Women Inspectors—John C. Garand—The 75-mm. Gun M1923E—The 75-mm. Pack Howitzer M1920—The 37-mm. Gun M1916—Medium Tank T3—Maj. Gen. Gladeon M. Barnes—Panzer II, the “Lynx”—8 Rad Panzerspahwagen—The “Panther”—Panzer VI, the “Tiger”—Heavy Tank M6 and Medium Tank M3—Medium Tank M4, the Sherman, and Heavy Tank M26, the Pershing—Track Extensions—Multiple Rocket Launcher T34—75-mm. Recoilless Rifle M20, and the “Little David” 914-mm. Mortar T1—German 28/20-mm. Antitank Gun—The Bazooka—VT fuze—Rifle Grenades—Body Armor—Land Mines—Mine Exploders—Controlled Mine System and the M3A1 Mine—Antiaircraft Guns—90-mm. Antiaircraft Gun—German 88-mm. at Porte Ferraio, Elba—Fire Control Instruments—Metallic Link Belt—20-mm. Aircraft Guns—Aircraft Rocket Installations—Bombs—The Parafrag Bomb in Action

All illustrations are from Department of Defense Files.